Suominen has two business areas: Convenience and Care. Although the scope of their operations might be different today, they nevertheless share many megatrends, raw materials, technologies and employee capabilities. Moreover, the product features may often be similar – after all, nearly all our products eventually touch human skin.
Suominen’s vision, “We change the way people think about nonwovens”, describes our aspiration not only to exceed our customers’ expectations with our innovations, but also to elevate the overall perception of the role of nonwovens. This is because nonwovens are not all the same; instead, every square meter of Suominen nonwovens is packed with carefully selected features tailored to match the needs of the end user in a specific use.
Our strategy defines how Suominen will achieve its vision and the targets set for this strategy period. It has three cornerstones that depict how we plan to execute the strategy and what aspects we will improve in our operations in order to be successful.
Supminen's purpose is to make life better. This purpose statement reflects the fundamental role that the end products made of our nonwovens play in the daily life. By doing our job at Suominen better, we improve people’s lives.
Suominen’s Convenience business area offers nonwovens for a wide range of wiping products: baby care, personal care, home care and workplace wipes. In 2018, Convenience accounted for 92% of our net sales and its customers include some of the world’s best-known consumer brands.
Suominen is the global market leader in nonwovens for wipes, with a market share of approximately 20%. We want to be recognized as the world leader in wipes and be the preferred partner in superior nonwoven innovations.
The Convenience business area offers nonwovens for an extensive range of wiping applications. The main end use applications for our nonwovens for wipes are:
The customers of Convenience include global consumer brands, manufacturers of private label products, retail chains and regional nonwoven converters. Our customer relationships are typically very long, on average more than ten years.
The main market areas for Convenience are North America and Europe, and we also operate in the South American market.
The net sales of the Convenience business area totaled EUR 396 million in 2018 (EUR 388.6 million in 2017). Growth in net sales reflected the healthy development of sales prices.
We suffered from input price increases as there were unprecedented rises in raw material, freight and utility prices. We took several measures to counter this development that has decreased our profitability. These included announcing a price increase of all Suominen products, working on outdated price mechanisms and initiating several other actions targeting to profitability improvement through enhancing pricing, performance and planning.
Our new wetlaid production line in Bethune, SC, USA turned positive on gross profit. We served several customers from the state-of-the-art production line and we continue to add new products to our offering from the line. In the fourth quarter the gross profit contribution of the new line weakened temporarily as we conducted successful trials related with the planned extension of the line’s product offering.
In February, we announced another smaller growth investment at our plant in Green Bay, WI, USA. The project involves the installation of new carding machinery representing the latest technology on an existing spunlace production line. It will improve our capability to supply high added value nonwovens for household wipes, personal care products and workplace wipes. We expect the new machinery to be in full utilization by end of 2019.
The Convenience business area had two key launches in 2018. The first was Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens™, a concept that makes it possible to embed digital, machine-readable features into our products. This offers, e.g., improved product safety and traceability to our
converter customers and a new kind of sophisticated marketing platform towards consumers for brands. The concept was made possible by Suominen’s unique capability to produce nonwovens with extremely high definition patterns wherein all kinds of digital features can be coded without deteriorating other functionalities or changing how nonwoven looks to the naked eye.
The second key launch of the year was Sustainable Product Portfolio, which aggregates all Suominen nonwovens that address different kinds of sustainability needs, be it plastic-free, biodegradability, recycled content or something else. Sustainable Product Portfolio was our response to increasing concerns of how environmentally friendly single-use products are, a discussion that has been bubbling under the surface for some time but surfaced when the European Commission published its proposal for the Single-Use Plastics directive. With Sustainable Product Portfolio, we are taking this environmental issue head on and offering our customers nonwoven products that perform as well as conventional products but, in addition, respond to changing regulation and the needs of environmentally conscious consumers.
Suominen’s Care business area offers nonwovens for specialty hygiene and medical applications, such as products for feminine hygiene, baby and adult incontinence products, as well as wound care, specialty operating room and patient hygiene applications. In 2018, Care accounted for 8% of Suominen’s net sales. Customers of the business area include global consumer brands, leading regional players, and manufacturers of medical components and devices.
Through its Care business area, Suominen makes people’s lives better by offering high-quality nonwoven components for hygiene applications and for medical products serving acute, institutional and home care settings. We want to be best in class in fluid management in our chosen markets and are positioned to be a leading supplier of specialty components seeking to grow our currently small market share.
The main end use applications for Suominen’s nonwovens for hygiene products are:
The main end use applications for medical products include:
In hygiene and medical applications, nonwovens most often serve as components of complex end products. For example, a feminine care product consists of several layers of different materials, with Suominen’s nonwovens being one of them, providing critical functionality to the total performance of the finished article.
Customers of the Care business area include global consumer brands, manufacturers of medical devices and regional nonwoven converters. The main geographies for Care are North America, South America and Europe.
The net sales of the Care business area totaled EUR 35.1 million in 2018 (EUR 37,5 million in 2017), representing 8% of Suominen’s group net sales.
In 2018, the Care business area also suffered from input price increases as there were unprecedented rises in raw material, freight and utility prices. This had a negative impact on Suominen’s profitability, but we took proactive measures to counter the situation, including a price increase of all Suominen products, working on outdated price mechanisms and initiating several other actions targeting to profitability improvement through enhancing pricing, performance and planning.
During 2018, Suominen did not publicly launch new nonwovens for medical applications but still the product portfolio was renewed. In addition, the production of the colored FIBRELLA® Zorb+ nonwoven, which has been previously made only in the USA, was started also at the Alicante, Spain plant, thanks to investments in production machinery made in the past years. This stabilized the sales of FIBRELLA® Zorb+, making an important contribution to Suominen’s small but profitable medical business.
In October, we made three significant new product launches in nonwovens hygiene products. First we launched FIBRELLA® Cozy, a topsheet material for absorbent hygiene products, such as pantyliners, that is superior in softness and excellent in fluid management. It is bonded with water and without any binders, making it a safe, skin-friendly and odorless material. As a result, FIBRELLA® Cozy is an attractive choice for hygiene brands and converters to target healthconscious consumers.
Two other launches were about extending Suominen’s more-than-adecade old BIOLACE® product line. The two products were BIOLACE® Move for acquisition and distribution layers (ADL) and BIOLACE® Cozy for topsheets, both to be used as components in absorbent hygiene products. The timing of extending the BIOLACE® product line was perfect as the European Commission published the proposal for the Single-Use Plastics directive the aim of which is to protect the environment. This prospective change put sustainability high on our customers’ priority list, which we saw in increased demand for nonwovens that are, for example, plasticfree or biodegradable. We expect this change in the operating environment to boost the demand for BIOLACE® products and other sustainable nonwovens.
Suominen's global manufacturing platform comprises eight production plants on three continents:
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We Love Wipes is Suominen’s digital consumer dialogue program launched back in 2013. Nowadays, the We Love Wipes community consists of nearly 25,000 followers who are not afraid to share their thoughts on and experiences with nonwovens products.
We Love Wipes aims to increase consumer awareness of disposable nonwoven products by providing brand-free information on the wide range of products, their different end-use applications and various features – all in a fun and entertaining way. And since the dialogue is two-way, We Love Wipes provides Suominen with valuable information about consumer needs and, in turn, enables us to develop new nonwoven products with higher added value.
Focused, in-depth information collected through We Love Wipes is a valuable asset for us and, therefore, we will continue deepening our consumer understanding in order to find opportunities, support product development projects and, ultimately, bring more value to our customers.